We speak about self-arrest, when in the event of a fall, we implement certain techniques to manage to stop by ourselves, without external help. The correct execution of these techniques is of crucial relevance in that case, as we will not always be able to foresee it beforehand. Our main aim consists of being capable to forecast the events before and while execute the activity, to avoid possible accidents.
Before heading to the mountain, we have to consider fundamental factors such as the weather and snow conditions we are going to meet. While progressing, we have to update this information on the field to adapt ourselves more efficiently to the existing conditions. Thus, we’ll be capable of preventing risks and minimize them to the max.
The case we are seeing here is pretty extreme. We are providing theoretic and practical information on how to react in case of falling while progressing on a splitboard.
However, this information in no case replaces training with professional instructors/guides, which is essential to learn this and many other techniques, in order to progress safely on the mountain.
Pau Gómez, UIAGM guide and manager of Dablam Esports School in Tavascan, is sharing with us his experience to apply these techniques to splitboarding.
We have to bear in mind that these ski mountaineering based techniques are innovating, based on our experience and adapted to splitboarding as efficiently as possible.
In this sense, there are different handicaps to be considered while implementing theses techniques:
- When we fall, a splitboard doesn’t come off our feet; this could be a problem when it comes to applying some of these standard techniques used on ski touring.
- The use of soft boots and snowboard bindings, and other factors, such as waist width, hinder the transmission on the effective edge, reducing contact points while traversing or kick turning, a problem that increases considerably when the snow is hard or icy.
- The incorrect placement of the skins could worsen this situation. We should leave some space for the splitboard edge to work properly, gripping the snow.
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How to stop after falling without an Ice Axe (when progressing diagonally):
This usually happens due to lack of foresight when analyzing the situation. If we set the crampons or blades on the run, it can result in our splitboard slipping away due to lack of traction on the edge, and consequently we could end up sliding down at great speed on top of an icy layer or on steep hardpack. It can also occur when a thin fresh snow layer hides a hard or icy base. This situation could find us unprepared, making us fall immediately.
In any case of falling, the key is to keep calm to be capable of thinking clearly and struggle. It is important to act, as if we don’t, we’ll only manage to stop when the slope becomes flat, with all the consequences this could carry.
We have to be aware that our main goal is to struggle to stop ourselves.
Our main concern is trying to keep our body on a vertical position, with our head looking up the mountain, and to help our body from sliding down the slope headfirst. Once we have this position under control, we’ll press on the snow with our fists and poles, pressing with the whole base of our feet, to try to lift the splitboard from the snow, as this will be our main tool to reduce speed and come to a stop.
Most Relevant: This technique is adequate in case of less exposed, smooth slopes. The pressure we need to apply on the waist edges has to be progressive and gradual; if we apply a strong and fast pressure, they could reject us like a lever, and lead us to roll down the slope, something we should avoid at all costs.
How to stop after falling without an Ice Axe (while kick turning):
This is one of the moves where the lack of experience could play us a dirty trick. These several kick turning techniques, to be used on different situations, considering different parameters, such as the quality of the snow or the steepness of the slope.
The moment we execute a kick turn, and for a few seconds, we are left without no support point on our splitboard whatsoever. It’s on this very precise moment where we can lose stability or fall on our face, with split legs.
In this case, we will try to apply the same procedure we use when falling on a diagonal traverse, but the pressure on the splitboard has to lead us to try an inverted snowplough to slow down the fall progressively by applying pressure on the heels and the inner edges of the splitboard. We’ll try to avoid remaining stretched out and on the tips of the splitboard, as this could lead us to slide like down the slope as on a sled.
This technique requires a great amount of flexibility and strength, as the position to arrest ourselves is very unnatural.
If we can manage to rotate our body to set the skis perpendicular to the slope, we’ll be able to use the diagonal self-arrest technique.
Most relevant: This technique is adequate on less exposed smooth slopes. The pressure we need to apply on the waist edges, has to be progressive and gradual; if we apply a strong and fast pressure, they could reject us like a lever, and lead us to roll down the slope, something we should avoid at all costs.
Self-arrest while progressing with an Ice Axe
This technique is the one used on climbing, where the ice axe is an active security element, very useful for self-arrest, in case of falling on a very exposed and steep area.
As usual, we have to be capable of reading the terrain, to anticipate and foresee any risky situation. If during the progression we consider there is risk of falling, we need to have the ice axe in the hand, or somewhere where it is easily accessible, to be able to use it as quickly as possible in case of falling.
In any case, falling with your ice axe in hand will be a great advantage when it comes to applying the self-arrest technique immediately.
We have to use the ice axe correctly; therefore, we’ll hold it with the blade tip pointing out to avoid self-injuring accidents, and to be able to apply the maximum pressure with all our body. We can’t forget to put on the leash, to avoid it form slipping of our hand. Don’t forget this is your life insurance.
In this case, we should forget our feet, to help catching an edge, which would propel us making us jump and roll down the slope. Besides, we should look that all of our weight is at ice axe height, to be able to stick it in the ice with all our strength.
The pressure on the ice-axe blade has to be strong enough to stop us in a few meters.
This technique is adequate in case of falling on a very exposed and steep slope.
Most relevant: The techniques exposed hereby should by no means replace training with professional instructors/guides. We advise you to take the corresponding training courses to be able to apply these techniques correctly, under the supervision of professionals.
Pau Gómez dablamesports.com
Elena G. de Murillo | David Pérez